Nova Scotia

Halifax considers upgrades to Halifax Explosion memorial park

Halifax is looking at turning Fort Needham Park into an "outdoor museum" in time for the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion.

City looks into millions of dollar in upgrades ahead of 100th anniversary of disaster

Halifax is considering almost $8 million in improvements to Fort Needham park, designed to commemorate the Halifax Explosion. (Katie Thompson/CBC News)

Halifax is looking at turning Fort Needham Park into an "outdoor museum" in time for the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion. 

The city's considering spending $7.9 million on the north-end Halifax spot. A staff report recommends three stages of improvements to the historic hilltop park, which includes the Halifax Explosion Memorial Bell Tower. 

The tower was built to commemorate the 1917 harbour collision between the Mont Blanc and the Imo, which resulted in an explosion that killed 2,000 people and injured 9,000 others. 

Staff said work needs to start soon to have it ready for the 100th anniversary in 2017. 

Jennifer Watts, the councillor for the area, said they're trying to make the 15.6-acre site an outdoor museum.

"People will be able to go, and through interpretative signage and also through tactile experience of being in the park, understand what it was like," she said.

The first phase includes $2.2 million in new lighting, seating and landscaping around the Bell Tower plaza.

The initial design of the Bell Tower was set to overlook the site of the Halifax Explosion, but the construction of a ship repair shed now blocks the view. (Katie Thompson/CBC News)

The Halifax Shipyard now blocks the view of the harbour where the explosion took place, so staff recommend the creation of a new memorial walk that would include unobstructed site lines. Watts said markings on the hill will show people the size of the ships. 

Many of the improvements in the second and third phases are for community and recreational use.

They include moving the sports fields and adding an urban orchard and a sensory playground for children with visual impairments. Watts said it would be open to everyone, but would also remind people of one of the long-term harms caused by the explosion. 

"One of the tremendous impacts of the explosion was the effect it had on people's vision, because of the shattered glass from the windows being blown out." said Watts.

The community planning and economic development committee's recommendation will be forwarded to Halifax council for its consideration on Thursday. 

Lt. Victor Magnus had his camera at the ready in the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion. This scene shows the devastation. (Victor Magnus)

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